Thursday, January 16, 2014

2 Novels About Irishmen

I've been trying to work my way through the shelves of books that I've bought or been given and not yet read. Two historical novels I recently re-shelved to my "read" section are both about Irishmen and their tragic lives, Hungry Hill and Mortal Friends.

Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier
Published in 1943, Hungry Hill covers 5 generations of land-owners in Ireland, spanning from 1820 to 1920. The Broderick family owns the estate named Clonmere where Hungry Hill stands, a treasure trove of copper buried beneath it. "Copper John" Broderick initiates mining operations, much to the chagrin of the Donovan family, who's forefathers were chiefs of the land before the Broderick's were establish there by the crown. The feud plays out in different, though always unpleasant, ways over the years, so that the mining operations and the lives of the Brodericks are consistently attacked or undermined. It's a beautifully told story with bright patches of joy contrasting with the bad turns of luck.

Mortal Friends by James Carroll
Mortal Friends (published in 1978 but set in the 1920s) is, on the other hand, nothing but tragedy from the beginning to the end. The novel begins on young farmer Colman Brady's wedding day in a town called Four Mile Water. Just after the wedding, the Major Purcival rolls into town with 20 members of the Black and Tan and orders the people to evacuate their homes and farms within 3 days, as their land is to be designated a military zone. So begins the journey of 22 year-old Colman Brady from soft-spoken farmer to Irish Nationalist, to American immigrant, to Irish mob member and political hopeful. Colman's story is steeped in sorrow and death, but it was told in such a fascinating way that I couldn't put it down. Carroll's turns of phrase were beautiful, and often I'd stop to re-read sections just because of how lovely the language sounded.

These were both fantastic, though melancholy, reads and I highly recommend them!

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